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Nor do I allege these things as a pretence to avoid the dispute, but to secure the pardon which I beg, to the end that our discourse, having a regard (as it were) to some port or refuge, may proceed the more boldly in producing probable circumstances to clear the doubt. But first consider this; that God, according to Plato, when he set himself before the eyes of the whole world as the exemplar of all that was good and holy, granted human virtue, by which man is in some measure rendered like himself, unto those that are able to follow the Deity by imitation. For universal Nature, being at first void of order, received its first impulse to change and to be formed into a world, by being made to resemble and (as it were) partake of that idea and virtue which is in God. And the self-same Plato asserts, that Nature first kindled the sense of seeing within us, to the end that the soul, by the sight and admiration of the heavenly bodies, being accustomed to love and embrace decency and order, might be induced to hate the disorderly motions of wild and raving passions, and avoid levity and rashness and dependence upon chance, as the original of all improbity and vice. For there is no greater benefit that men can enjoy from God, than, by the imitation and pursuit of those perfections and that sanctity which is in him, to be excited to the study of virtue. Therefore God, with forbearance and at leisure, inflicts his punishment upon the wicked; not that he is afraid of committing an error or of repenting should he accelerate his indignation; but to eradicate that brutish and eager desire of revenge that reigns in human breasts, and to teach us that we are not in the heat of fury, or when our anger heaving and palpitating boils up above our understanding, to fall upon. those who have done us an injury, like those who seek to gratify a vehement thirst or craving appetite, but that we should, [p. 147] in imitation of this mildness and forbearance, wait with due composure of mind before we proceed to chastisement or correction, till such sufficient time for consideration is taken as shall allow the least possible room for repentance. For, as Socrates observed, it is far the lesser mischief for a man distempered with ebriety and gluttony to drink puddle-water, than, when the mind is disturbed and over-charged with anger and fury, before it be settled and become limpid again, for a man to seek the satiating his revenge upon the body of his friend or kinsman. For it is not the revenge which is the nearest to injury, as Thucydides says, but rather that which is the most remote from it, that observes the most convenient opportunity. For as anger, according to that of Melanthius,
Quite from the brain transplants the wit,
Vile acts designing to commit;

so reason does that which is just and moderate, laying passion and fury aside. Whence it comes to pass that men, giving ear to human examples, become more mansuete and gentle; as when they hear how Plato, holding his cudgel over his page's shoulders, as himself relates, paused a good while, correcting his own anger; and how in like manner Archytas, observing the sloth and wilful negligence of his servants in the field, and perceiving his passion to rise at a more than usual rate, did nothing at all; but as he went away, It is your good fortune, said he, that ye have angered me. If then the savings of men when called to mind, and their actions being told, have such a power to mitigate the roughness and vehemency of wrath, much more becomes it us, beholding God, with whom there is neither dread nor repentance of any thing, deferring nevertheless his punishments to future time and admitting delay, to be cautious and circumspect in these matters, and to deem as a divine part of virtue that mildness and long-suffering of which God affords us an example, while by punishing he reforms [p. 148] some few, but by slowly punishing he helpeth and admonisheth many.

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